Psalm 126: The Rhythm of Life

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

July 25, 2020 

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 126, one of fifteen Psalms of Ascent, which meant it would be sung in gratitude when “ascending” for prayer.

You may enjoy listening to the Psalm read accompanied by music.
Psalm 126 – Milken Archive, Jewish Choral Art in America.


Psalm 126 is popular and immediately recognizable to Jews and Christians. Thought to be written by either Ezra or the prophets at the return from the Babylonian Captivity, the psalm celebrates restoration while remembering the lessons of exile.

Israel is overwhelmed with gratitude at their deliverance, barely able to comprehend God’s goodness.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.


Have you ever had a feeling like that, perhaps when you’ve gotten to the other side of a really rough patch in your life? Feeling like we’ve come through a dream – maybe a bad one – we can’t even find the words to thank God for helping us. We might simply laugh or cry for joy.

Psalm 126 reminds us not to let that tumultuous gratitude dissipate. The repetition of the psalm inscribes that gratitude on our hearts, transforming it to renewed hope and trust in God. As Catherine McAuley reminds us, life is a series of joys and sorrows. Both cycles can deepen our faith when we receive them in union with God.

This is your life,
joys and sorrow mingled,
one succeeding the other.

Letter to Francis Warde – May 28, 1841

Julien Dupré (French, 1851-1910)

Psalm 126 assures us that we can meet our life experiences with hope and trust because God is faithful. Within both our “comings” and our “goings”, God abides with us and will deliver us to joy.

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.


Poetry:  A Short Testament by Anne Porter

Whatever harm I may have done 
In all my life in all your wide creation creation
If I cannot repair it 
I beg you to repair it, 

And then there are all the wounded 
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed 
As if I were not one of them. 
Where I have wronged them by it 
And cannot make amends 
I ask you 
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near 
That I've destroyed in blind complicity, 
And if I cannot find them 
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over 
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death's bare branches.

Music: Hallelujah- Leonard Cohen

3 thoughts on “Psalm 126: The Rhythm of Life

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